Light gleams off the stone. It isn't much to look at anymore
, not since she first gave it to me. An empty husk, shell of what it once was, the life that once coursed through it spent.
But it's still beautiful. It still reflects the trees. It still reminds me of what used to be
. A swing, a playground, a white dress. It's a monument, a portable memorial, and I hope to God not yet a gravestone.
There isn't time to waste. Not if I want to find her alive. The internal light is higher. It dances off the stone
, leaving bright blue and yellow specks around me. I hurry onwards, down the steps below the forest floor. The steps eventually fade into a primitive slope, ever deeper into the depths. The light increases in intensity. It becomes almost painful.
I shield my face as I rush forward. I'm falling. A minute ago, I was running as fast as my legs could carry me. I'm falling now, a controlled fall, in the same direction. I hold the stone in front of me. It's not going to protect me. I'm not expecting it to, but I have nothing else
. I will myself forward, downwards, accelerating into the blues and yellows.
The deep light engulfs me and I break through to the other side. I escape the light into darkness
, as if erupting from the surface of the sun.
Instead of points of light around me, the stars here are streaks of light
across the sky, glowing in blues, yellows, and greens.
This is my sister's world
I recognize it from her drawings, her paintings. I used to think it was just a product of her overactive imagination, but now I'm actually here. Looking at it with my own eyes
No wonder she didn't want to leave. No wonder she had to be dragged screaming back to the so-called real world. I'm not so sure I want to go back there myself now. Maybe she's better off here. Maybe I've been on a fool's errand. Maybe I'm the one who's lost, not her
. The real world, my world, has nothing left for me. I suppose it also had very little left for her when she first came here.
I see now why she preferred this to what I had. I was trying to take her to a place she hated beyond her ability to put into words
. But I have to find her now. I still don't know where exactly she went when she escaped.
In my world, they have an explanation. An explanation that makes total sense to me. Yet it probably makes sense to me only because that is my reality
. This is hers. My version of rational thought is foreign in this place. Here stars do not exist in a single position. They exist along a path. Here her stone can be seen as both spent and full of energy, depending on where along its path I look.
I find where she was here many years ago, what she saw then. This is not her now. I see for the first time some of her oldest memories. I have to follow them. Somewhere along this trail of thought will be
where she is now. And I have to follow it to its end.
I imagine this is where she got the star stone. It seems to be home now, comfortable, resting
. The urgency is gone. I had thought the sense of urgency was my own, but it was the stone's. Still, I have to follow her trail. *We* have to follow her trail.
Memories from both my world and hers interweave here, along with memories from others she had encountered. Some quite terrible. I rush past them, afraid to look. Eventually, I see more and more of her time was being spent in this world, away from mine. Those were the years she became distant, detached. I had thought she hated me
. I never realized she wasn't there then. She literally wasn't there.